He told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. …
He told them still another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into about sixty pounds of flour until it worked all through the dough.” -Matthew 13:31, 33
Very, very small things that change everything: mustard seeds, yeast, those white floaties that carry dandelion seeds, viruses. Hmm…
You decide you want to grow your own mustard, so you take a mustard seed or three out into the freshly-plowed field and choose a spot for your potential tree. You drop the seeds into the soil, then suddenly change your mind about the location. What is the possibility that you can find those seeds again? Almost nil. They are tiny and the same color as dirt. They have already blended into the soil.
Or you decide to make some bread, so you mix yeast, sugar, and a little salt into your dry flour (the African way). Just before pouring in the water, you realize you’ve put a tablespoon instead of a teaspoon of yeast. Is it possible to pick the yeast back out of the flour? Not at all. You’d be better off either dumping the whole mix or adding a lot more flour.
That initially indistinguishable
change is invariably,
Once these things are in, they’re permanently in, and they begin to radically affect everything around them: yeast rolls v/s crackers, shady garden v/s sun-baked field. It takes a while—even years—but that initially indistinguishable change is invariably, inextricably inevitable.
What is the Kingdom of God? The Kingdom is us, the followers of Christ living out His Will in community. So when He says, “The Kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed” or “like yeast,” He means we are like mustard seeds and yeast.
Infiltrate & Integrate
Yeast is alive in that little packet, but if you don’t use it fairly quickly, it expires. Literally; it dies. Then, when you try to ‘bloom’ your yeast in sugar water (the Western way), nothing happens. And if you continue with bread-making, expect very flat bread. (Trust me on this one. I know from experience.)
Our purpose lies in
our proximity to lostness.
Yeast doesn’t do anyone any good when it’s sitting in the package. Mustard seeds never grow into mustard trees when they’re kept on a shelf. Their purpose lies in their proximity to the thing that needs to change. They have to be in the soil or the flour. As Christ-followers, we have to be among “the world” (a vague term, I know) before our purpose becomes apparent.
Intertwine & Influence
Here’s the dangerous part. We think integration and identification mean we become like them. In appearance, in some habits, this may be true. Remember, you can’t pick mustard seeds out of the dirt or yeast out of the flour. But even though we’re mixed, we are different. When we stay grounded in the Word and focused on His glory, they will be attracted to the love, kindness, and honesty of our lives. Then we begin to change them. For spiritually mature believers, there’s no reason to be afraid to intertwine your life with a non-believer’s. (Read my post, Friends and Influence, for the balance on this discussion. There are limits.)
At first, it won’t make much difference, but a mustard tree can grow to twenty feet tall and just as wide, with branches close to the ground. Yeast works within an hour or two, causing the dough to double or triple in size, then it continues to influence the bread until it’s baked.
Just keep coming back. Just
keep living the Christ-life.
At first, that time you spend with your neighbor on a Saturday afternoon or that lunch break you take with a coworker probably won’t make much difference. Just keep coming back. Just keep living the Christ-life with and in front of those you know.
Here’s another thing… Frustrated by the size of your standing in the Kingdom? Want to be something bigger, more important? It’s the insignificant size of the mustard seeds and the yeast that make them so acceptable. (Like what I did there with yet another ‘i’ word?)
We infiltrate the kingdom of this world (Ephesians 2:2).
We integrate ourselves into the systems and relationships around us (John 17:18).
We intertwine our lives with our neighbors and coworkers (Matthew 22:39).
We influence their lives through our identity in Christ (1 Corinthians 2:15-16, Philippians 2:5).
We are the Kingdom.
Please don’t miss this. Our purpose for being on earth is to glorify God by expanding His Kingdom. We are called to be change agents, miniscule but mighty!
For further reading: Flesh, by Hugh Halter.
Aren’t you glad Jesus gave us word pictures to help us understand spiritual things? How do these two analogies (the mustard seed and the yeast) help you in your faith walk? Please share a little in the comments below!